- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

The thousands of immigration supporters tested the D.C. transit system yesterday, creating a sea of celebration as the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice surged.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority deployed additional rail supervisors to help direct passengers at key downtown stations, and event organizers in orange hats helped direct marchers to the correct trains.

On the streets, police described the traffic as “intense” from Fourth to 14th streets in the Mall area, but the atmosphere was “nice and peaceful.”

“The rolling street closures worked,” said Karyn Le Blanc, spokeswoman for the District Department of Transportation. “The motorists have to be aware of the pedestrians a lot more.”

Some Metro passengers carried U.S. flags onto the trains, and a few wore bandannas or capes with the stars and stripes.

The atmosphere on the trains was calm and at times celebratory. Entire families were present, with children in strollers a common sight. Some trains took three or four minutes to unload.

Police were stationed on several platforms to make sure passengers waited for the next train when the doors closed on full cars. Even so, passengers tried to board the packed cars.

Laughter erupted in Metro Center when a train pulled up to the platform that was already full.

Although Metro operated on its normal weekday schedule, all rail lines carried six-car instead of four-car trains to accommodate the crowds.

Rally organizers had dropped off many demonstrators at the Takoma and Stadium-Armory Metro stations, and by 2:30 p.m. thousands of people were streaming into Metro Center, where they caught the Blue and Orange lines to the Smithsonian station.

By 4 p.m., the Smithsonian station was packed and Metro officials stopped allowing people to enter. Announcements were delivered in Spanish periodically to help ease the surge.

“You don’t have much of a choice when you get overcrowded like this,” said Charlie Dziduch, director of the Blue and Orange lines.

Traffic tie-ups began at 3:15 p.m. and stretched for about two blocks on each side of 16th Street Northwest once demonstrators started walking, chanting and carrying flags south from Meridian Hill Park, east on H Street Northwest to 15th Street Northwest and then south to the Washington Monument, where thousands of others had waited since 1 p.m.

“There were some detours for buses,” but disruptions were minimal otherwise, said Steve Taubenkibel, a spokesman for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Metro officials said preliminary numbers were not excessive and that the total passenger figures will be released today.

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